Student Profiles

Tesni Stephen

photoI grew up here in Richmond, Virginia and received my BFA in Apparel Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. I interned in New York, only to realize my heart was in smaller cities with an abundance of nature and friendly people. I travelled and worked a variety of jobs while exploring my many interests, including teaching English in Japan, taking care of the Costume and Textiles Collection at the Valentine Richmond History Center, and finally finding my way to teaching art at a wonderful community arts center: The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. I love my job teaching sewing and patternmaking to all ages and demographics, and also helping to run SOHO: Space Of Her Own: an art based mentoring program which teaches life and leadership skills through art.

In my free time, I found myself happily reading and learning about education, art, and child development. I figured this was the time to pursue my master’s and learn in a structured and academic atmosphere under the guidance of informed professors, while surrounded by classmates with many backgrounds and interests. I look forward to the opportunities available to me as a student at VCU, the relationships I will and have already formed, and my future as an art educator: working towards fostering a strong, kind, and accepting community through the universal power of art.


Paula Dabbs


I graduated from the Ohio State University with a B.S.Ed. in English-Communications.  After teaching middle school Language Arts for several years, I decided to pursue a degree in graphic design because I wanted to integrate my interests in both visual and written communication.

When I moved to Virginia, I got a job at the Darden Graduate School of Business (University of Virginia) writing and designing brochures and ads for their Executive Education Programs.  Since moving to Richmond, I have been an active volunteer in the Henrico County Public Schools and at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, where I received my Certificate in Botanical Illustration.

I chose to enter the MAE Program at VCU because I would like to further my studies in education, art, and graphic design.  VCU provides many opportunities for networking and involvement in both the education and visual arts communities.   I appreciate the diversity that VCU offers and their willingness to accept students of all ages and backgrounds.  I am learning so much from my fellow classmates and I appreciate the dedication of the faculty and staff.


Mushamisi Kahari


I have long been interested in using Art as a means of enriching and empowering others. This was largely due to having been born and raised in Zimbabwe. Thus I attended then graduated from VCU in 2008 with a BFA in Sculpture and Extended Media with a minor in Painting and Printmaking as well as a BFA in Communication Arts. It was a life altering experience. I was able throughout my undergraduate career to accumulate a wealth of community building as well as teaching experiences. After graduation I worked in the United States gaining my teaching related experiences until I returned to Zimbabwe in 2009. In Zimbabwe I worked for my family law practice acting as a consultant to the creative arts community. I also continued my education earning a Masters from Africa University (Mutare, Zimbabwe) in Intellectual Property (2012).

My time back home was an opportunity to reflect and observe about what my role might be within the Art Education community before applying to the program. I found that my interests had evolved from the traditional model of a classroom at a specific place with a specific time schedule. I now had begun to explore means by which students could interact with one another beyond geographical, time and cultural differences. Thus I chose return to VCU because of the faculty in the Art Education Department. It has been greatly rewarding as it has allowed me to look on past teaching experiences with new eyes while exploring new and current practice. The professors are available and invested in your success making sure to guide your research interests while making you aware of opportunities that develop in the field. An unexpected resource is the students in the program who all have a wealth of diverse connections they have cultivated with a willingness to collaborate. I know as I continue in the program that my growth as an art educator is not the only thing I will gain. I will have a lifetime of dedicated mentors and peers who will challenge as well as inspire me through out my career.


Esi Sam Annan

I was born and raised in Cape Coast, Ghana and hold a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Rural Art and Industry from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. I have always loved art and have often volunteered to teach art to various groups of children in different settings. My favorite memories of teaching art are from March 2004 to August 2009, when I taught kids with special needs during my University breaks. I came to VCU to pursue the MAE program because VCU is ranked one of the top Global Universities and has one of the best art programs in America. Teaching art has been my dream for a long time, and I wanted to be at an institution that could help me acquire more knowledge, allow me to develop my art skills, and provide me the opportunity to maximize my potential.

VCU provides an excellent academic program with great diversity and friendly, welcoming students and faculty. I am currently working under a teacher mentor in one of the public schools in Richmond to acquire better teaching skills and to learn how to interact and work efficiently with students. I know the kind of exposure I continue to experience in this program will help me to meet the demands that people have of today’s art educators.


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